The Live Pixel is offering an interview with the Stoic team about the Kickstarter-funded indie RPG The Banner Saga, which promises to mix a viking-themed story, Disney-esque animation and tactical turn-based battles. Whether it will turn out well or not, it's certainly an interesting project, and the interview delves into the past experiences of the team, their design intentions for the title, the upcoming Banner Saga: Factions multiplayer demo and more.
Here's a sampling:
Justin Lowe: So, what is Banner Saga?
Alex Thomas: The problem with that question is that Banner Saga is kind of complex; not in a pretentious way, but you cannot just say that it is a genre. We had a story idea and that was the kernel of it. Arnie and I were talking about it and thought, “This is a really cool idea and it would work with turn based strategy.” So we started looking at how we could integrate combat with the story. In most turn-based strategy, you play through a series of maps, there is not much interaction, it is somewhat dull, and no one cares about the story anyway. We wanted to focus on the tale that we were telling. So we were thinking, “What could we do to make it interesting, make you invested in the people that are in your caravan and civilization?”
The story is about the end of the world. The end of the world happened and the gods died, but the people that they created are left. So they are very confused. They do not know what happened or what is going to happen. They do not know what that means about the afterlife. There is another event happening that looks like another Ragnarok. Maybe this one is for them; they do not know. So they’re all scared, they don’t know what’s happening, and they have to travel to constantly escape this rolling wall of darkness. The inspiration came from The NeverEnding Story, like how the nothing was coming and sweeping up everything behind it. It is kind of a similar thing. A large part of the story is the mystery of what is causing it, what exactly it is, and how they can reverse it. Can they reverse it?
We questioned what kind of combat could encompass that idea. Turn-based strategy worked for us, but it could not be the only thing that happened. We came up with a travel mode that is sort of like a moving King of Dragon Pass, if you have ever played that. It is also like an advanced Oregon Trail, which many people are familiar with. We both had the idea that you are rolling along with your entire civilization. Events are happening and you have to deal with these problems. Instead of “billy bob broke a leg,” it is “these people in your caravan have a problem,” and there is multiple choice. Do you get involved? Do you let it sort itself out? That affects the makeup of your caravan. Along the way you can get into points where the main story kicks in, there’s events that happen as you’re going along, and how you deal with them affects what happens further down the road. That integrated pretty well with the idea of small combat. We kept building up back and forth on these ideas, and one would influence the other. Both systems would feel like things that you do in travel change what happens in combat, and vice versa. That was the crux of our concept for the game.
Arnie Jorgensen: What is the difference between that and Banner Saga: Factions? We have to start talking about that!
Alex Thomas: You are right.
Arnie Jorgensen: Banner Saga: Factions is very important to Stoic right now. We are LASER focused on it.
Alex Thomas: Banner Saga: Factions is that idea of, “We needed to develop this full story game, and we need to develop the combat system.” We needed to work out all of that first, because that is the riskiest system that we have. So we were focused solely on combat, and we thought, “The combat is actually really fun just by itself.” Even though we have this bigger idea for the game, there is no reason not to just release combat and let people play and have fun. Originally, that was going to be like the Minecraft idea of releasing something in beta, you let people have fun, they give you feedback, they come and go over time as you update it and add new features.